The Wooster Group will present the premiere of Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me, a theatrical piece that explores the genre of Black American storytelling called Toasts, rhyming epic poems.
Featuring performer Eric Berryman, the work will be directed by Kate Valk and will play The Performing Garage January 11-February 3, 2024.
The piece is based on the 1976 LP Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me: Narrative Poetry from Black Oral Tradition, a collection of Toasts recorded and edited by folklorist Bruce Jackson. The rhyming epic poems tell fantastical stories about legendary street heroes. Toasts were staples of urban life, performed by groups of men, with performers bringing their own unique verbal style.
The theatrical staging is set in a late-night radio DJ studio, where Berryman, accompanied by Jharis Yokley on drums, performs renditions of several classic Toasts from the album, which he contextualizes with reflections on Black male identity.
Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me will also feature production design by Elizabeth LeCompte, sound design by Eric Sluyter, lighting design by Marika Kent, video design by Irfan Brkovic, additional video by Andrew Maillet and Yudam Hyung Seok Jeon, assistant direction by Michaela Murphy, technical direction by Tavish Miller, production management by Bona Lee, and general management by Monika Wunderer. Cynthia Hedstrom produces, alongside associate producer Maya Davis.